Method R Estimates of Heritability for Milk, Fat,
and Protein Yields of United States Dairy Cattle

Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

ABSTRACT Heritabilities for milk, fat, and protein yields were estimated from first lactation data used for USDA-Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) genetic evaluations. Contemporary group assignments and standard deviations within herd-year were determined with the procedure used for national evaluations. Pedigree data were included for animals born since 1970; yield data were included for cows born since 1980. Lactation records were divided into four mutually exclusive data sets based on standard deviations. Ranges for standard deviations were chosen so that data sets were approximately equal in size. Method R was used to estimate heritability with 25 different random samples of half of the data for each data set. Because of the large number of Holstein observations, estimates of heritability for Holsteins were based on random subsets of the complete data file; each subset included approximately 5% of the data. Mean heritability estimates increased with standard deviations, and estimates ranged from 0.18 to 0.51 across breeds. Repeatability estimates for milk yield of Holsteins were approximately 0.50 and did not change with standard deviation. These heritability estimates were higher than those previously used in the USDA-DHIA genetic evaluation. Heritability used in the USDA-DHIA genetic evaluation have been increased based on these results.

Key Words: heritability, Method-R, genetic evaluation, milk yield

1999 J. Dairy Sci. 82:2231-2237

© 1999, by the American Dairy Science Association. All rights reserved.